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Willis' new 'Die Hard' scores with $25M debut; 'Identity Thief,' 'Safe Haven' run close behind

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Bruce Willis remains a die-hard at the box office.

Willis' action sequel "A Good Day to Die Hard" debuted as the weekend's top draw with a $25 million debut from Friday to Sunday. The 20th Century Fox release raised its domestic total to $33.2 million since opening Thursday for Valentine's Day to get a jump on the long President's Day weekend.

The movie comes 25 years after the original "Die Hard" and six years after "Live Free or Die Hard," the hit that resurrected the franchise centred on Willis' relentless New York City cop John McClane.

The previous weekend's No. 1 movie, Universal's comedy "Identity Thief" starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, was a close second with $23.4 million to lift its haul to $70.7 million.

Debuting at No. 3 with $21.4 million was Relativity Media's romance "Safe Haven," starring Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel in an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel about a woman who flees her abusive husband and takes up with a sensitive widower. Since opening on Valentine's Day, "Safe Haven" has taken in $30.3 million.

The Weinstein Co. animated tale "Escape from Planet Earth" opened at No. 4 with $16.1 million. With a voice cast that includes Brendan Fraser, Jessica Alba, Sarah Jessica Parker and Rob Corddry, the movie follows the adventures of aliens captured by the U.S. military.

Making a weak debut at No. 6 was the Warner Bros. teen fantasy "Beautiful Creatures," which pulled in $7.5 million for the weekend and $10 million since opening Thursday. The movie is based on the first in the bestselling series about a Southern misfit (Alden Ehrenreich) who falls under the spell of a teen witch (Alice Englert).

"A Good Day to Die Hard" did solid business despite bad reviews for the latest installment, which sends Willis' McClane to Moscow in search of his estranged son, an undercover spy who winds up teaming with the old man against Russian bad guys.

The movie's success follows notable flops from two other holdovers of the 1980s action scene, Sylvester Stallone with "Bullet to the Head" and Arnold Schwarzenegger with "The Last Stand."

"There's still life left in the 'Die Hard' franchise. Given the fact that pretty much every other R-rated action movie that's come out this year has completely fallen flat, this is a pretty good showing," said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. Willis is "one of the old-guard action stars who still has a solid career going, whereas a lot of these aging action heroes, unless they're in an ensemble cast, they're not able to draw audiences the way they used to."

Overall Hollywood business remained slow, with revenues off for the fourth-straight weekend compared to the same period last year. Domestic business from Friday to Sunday totalled $141 million, down 9.4 per cent from the same weekend a year ago, when "Safe House" and "The Vow" led the way with about $23 million each.

A bright spot this year has been strong business for top Academy Awards contenders leading up to next Sunday's Oscars. The weekend's top-20 films included eight of the nine best-picture nominees, seven of which have either topped $100 million domestically or are close.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are included. Final domestic figures will be released Tuesday.

1. "A Good Day to Die Hard," $25 million ($61.5 million international).

2. "Identity Thief," $23.4 million ($180,000 international).

3. "Safe Haven," $21.4 million ($2.6 million international).

4. "Escape from Planet Earth," $16.1 million.

5. "Warm Bodies," $9 million ($4.9 million international).

6. "Beautiful Creatures," $7.5 million ($5.4 million international).

7. "Side Effects," $6.3 million.

8. "Silver Linings Playbook," $6.1 million ($6.5 million international).

9. "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," $3.5 million ($9.5 million international).

10. "Zero Dark Thirty," $3.1 million ($2.9 million international).

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Estimated weekend ticket sales at international theatres (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:

1. "A Good Day to Die Hard," $61.5 million.

2. "Django Unchained," $13.7 million.

3. "Wreck-It Ralph," $11.5 million.

4. "Les Miserables," $10 million.

5. "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," $9.5 million.

6. "Miracle in Cell. No. 7," $8.8 million.

7. "Flight," $7 million.

8. "Lincoln," $6.6 million.

9. "Silver Linings Playbook," $6.5 million.

10. "Jack Reacher," $5.7 million.

___

Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

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